They said it couldn’t be done, but now the House of Representatives has voted to increase the debt ceiling. It may sound ridiculous to describe a once routine show vote as a stunning triumph of the human spirit, but it’s actually true — they said it couldn’t be done. Republican leaders insisted that President Obama had to give them policy concessions because a clean debt limit increase could not pass the House.
To be sure, the people who said it couldn’t be done were pretty stupid or dishonest. But they did say it. They’re probably not going to be saying it next time.
We have probably seen the last, final gasp of debt ceiling extortion. In 2011, Republicans used the threat of default to pry unrequited spending cuts from Obama. Then Obama wised up and refused to pay any more ransoms. Republicans tried to go through the drama twice more — last winter, when they settled for “making” Senate Democrats pass a budget, which they planned to do anyway. And then last fall, when they combined their debt ceiling hostage demands with a government shutdown. This time, Republicans tried halfheartedly to attach the debt limit to some kind of popular change Democrats wanted, but didn’t even bother threatening not to lift the debt ceiling if they failed.
Now we can go back to regular gridlock.